Scientists from Michigan State University have discovered that an enzyme produced by microbes living in the stomachs of cows is the key to efficiently turning corn plants into biofuels. This enzyme is essential to the digestion of grasses by cows. It can also be utilized to turn other plant fibers into simple sugars. These simple sugars can then be used to produce ethanol to fuel trucks and cars.
Michigan State University scientists have conveniently grown corn plants that contain this enzyme by inserting the particular gene from a bacterium that live in cows' stomachs. This effectively converts the un-usable sugars, such as cellulose, which are locked up in the plant’s stalks and leaves into usable sugar without the aid of costly synthetic chemicals and processes.
Originally only the kernels of corn plants could be utilized to make ethanol, but this innovative discovery will allow the whole corn plant to be used. Consequently, more fuel can be produced at a smaller cost.
The main target for the enzyme produced in the corn plants is the vacuole as it is a safe and convenient place for the enzyme to be stored until harvest. The enzyme will accumulate in the vacuole with other cellular and metabolic waste products and will only become active when it is being used for biofuels. Since it is located only in the vacuole, the enzyme is only to be produced in the leaves and stalks of the plant where it is required and not in the seeds, roots or the pollen.
This revolutionary idea promises an effective carbon neutral and renewable energy source.
For more information visit: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080408085453.htm